Capital Audiofest 2012Summing Up the Show
I said in my first story from this year’s Capital Audiofest, the third overall and the second to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rockville, MD, July 1316, that this wasn’t like other audio shows. On the positive side, CAF had a great atmosphere, friendly and collegial, with great organization from Gary Gill and his team. The hotel had a goodly number of rooms with manageable acoustics, and the hotel staff was friendly and supportive. The live music was superb. Every showgoer I spoke with said that they were having a great time at CAF, that the Metro Washington DC area really does need a show like this, and it was great to hear so many products. And the nightly rafflemy photo shows Gary Gill holding up one of the prizes at the Saturday evening eventwas an excellent draw, with the big prize a Benchmark DAC 1 D/A headphone amplifier.
However, while the number of exhibiting brands had increased compared with the 2011 Show, with more than 50 compared with around 30 last year, and a record 42 display and dem rooms, the public turnout was disappointing. There had been around 900 audiophiles visiting in 2011, and while 1500 had been expected this year, I would be surprised if there had been more than 500. (I am waiting for Gary to get back to me with the official attendance) Friday was very quiet, and while there were more people in the corridors Saturday, there wasn’t a room where I had to wait for good seat. Some might feel that the economic climate was to blame for the low turnout, but THE Show Newport Beach in June had good attendance despite the economic climate. So the reason for the low turn-out at CAF remains a mystery.
Looking back at my four stories from CAF, in which I presented the rooms in the order I visited them (and my apologies to the manufacturers for the rooms I failed to get to in the day and half I was at the Show), I am struck by two things: First, the absence of many “marquee” brands; second, the preponderance of retro and vintage speakers and systems. I am not saying that these are out of place at a Showwhen done right, a low-power SET tube amplifier driving high-sensitivity speakers can get close to some of the aspects of music reproduction that conventional systems can overlook. But when so many of the rooms at a Show are devoted to this singular system strategy, the appeal of the Show to more mainstream audiophiles is diminished. An analogy would be if there was a car show that had no representation from Ford, Chrysler, GM, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW and instead was devoted to companies remanufacturing Cord roadsters and the Studebaker Avanti. As worthy and as interesting as such vehicles might be, they are not what petrol heads, let alone the general public, purchase and will drive to see.
The Third Capital Audiofest had many good things going for it, and I understand that the hotel has already been booked for the 2013 event. But we shall see if CAF 2013 manages to build on the promise of the first three shows.